The Republican party today has the presidency and the majority of both houses, and yet there seems to be few signs of consensus and stability, due to the figure of Donald Trump. Some Republicans think that Trump might be the best thing that ever happened to them, some think he might be the worst.
After Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, there was talk amongst GOP members that the party should be more flexible with certain issues in order to appeal to liberals and minorities, candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, seemed to point towards the next face of the Republican party, but then a billionaire came in and pushed the GOP to the far right.
Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” published an article in the Washington Post explaining his decision to leave the Republican party in which he describes the damage from the lack of pushback within the GOP against Trump.
“He [Trump] echoed Stalin and Mao by calling the free press ‘the enemy of the people.’ Republican leaders were silent. And as the commander in chief insulted allies while embracing autocratic thugs, Republicans who spent a decade supporting wars of choice remained quiet,” writes Scarborough.
Wether you believe in collusion with Russia or just a case of the often mentioned “forgotten” middle class, the truth is that Trump had a smarter strategy than any other candidate. From a marketing standpoint it would have been very difficult for the Republican party to abandon its corner in order to come closer to the middle. Were they going to become liberal/conservatives and gain more support? Probably not, because the liberal side is already occupied by Democrats.
There’s a scene in the first episode of the series “Mad Men” where Don Draper is doing a presentation for Lucky Strike cigarettes, and he has this sort of epiphany moment when an idea hits him. “We have six identical companies making six identical products, we can say anything we want,” says Draper about a way to advertise Luck Strike cigarettes as safe.
Advertising Draper says “it’s about happiness, and you know what happiness is? Happiness is a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay, you are okay.”
This is what Donald Trump was in the end, he was the only different “product,” the one that stood out. He wasn’t dwindling between lines, he had a clear strategy, an identity, he said whatever he wanted and while the product was just as dangerous and maybe even vile, he was letting people across the country know that they were right, that the “establishment” was the problem.
He’s still selling that argument at every speech (2020 campaign rallies) and constantly catering to those that bought his brand of politics.
The GOP has never fully embraced or rejected Trump, and this may be because Trump provides a great opportunity for Republicans that are representing corporate interests.
To understand the benefits of Trump’s presidency for the GOP, it’s necessary to look at the pieces of legislation that everyone has ignored while being outraged by Trump’s tweets. When you take the circus away, behind the scenes, the so-called “establishment” is having the time of their lives while the “anti-establishment” president becomes the perfect front for capitalism to run free.
There’s a reason why so many former Goldman Sachs executives are in the White House, why a former Exxon Mobile CEO is Secretary of State, why Republicans are going after financial regulations for banks within healthcare and lastly, why there are three extremely happy figures in the GOP: Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Mike Pence.
The bank is being robbed while everybody is complaining about the teller.
Vice President Pence became the first sitting vice president to start a political action committee (PAC). According to politico, Ryan and McConnell were present during a fundraising event, which under a regular political climate might lead to some outrage, but in the current climate, people are completely focused on Trump.
— The Hill (@thehill) August 7, 2017
The Pence, McConnell and Ryan Trio seems to be riding the Trump wave towards corporate money, and if Trump where to be impeached, Pence would carry on with the exact same policies and practices, so the future looks bleak.
A recent opinion piece in Vanity Fair cites a quote from Alec MacGillis book “The Cynic” in which the author describes McConnell as a politician without values.
“McConnell has never had any longstanding political values. He has allowed himself to be filled — initially by hired consultants — with whatever positions would keep money rolling in and ensure his continual election and, now, his supremacy in the Senate. That is his enduring principle. Maintaining this status requires fealty to die-hard Trump voters who make up the most active portion of the Republican base,” writes MacGillis
Looking forward to 2020 it will be interesting to see if Trump’s populist right will also affect the Democratic agenda which is already shaping to become even more liberal. But regardless of the outcome, this political extremism doesn’t seem like a good sign for U.S. politics in the long run.
The GOP seems to be figuring out their identity, and as 2020 inches closer, it will be interesting to observe whether they decide to put all of their chips on Trump’s brand of politics or whether they will try to purge the Trump name from their party and their history.